Policy changes proposed an auDA Panel have been slammed by the Internet Commerce Association who have said they should ‘embrace domain investing’, “the Panel has found solutions in search of a problem” and it “has not engaged in evidence-based policy making” and that the Panel has “created equally or more unclear policies which are impossible and costly to effectively enforce.”
In late March, auDA, the policy and regulatory body for Australia’s country code top level domain (ccTLD), released a report compiled by their Policy Review Panel (PRP) who is inviting feedback from the Australian community on its final recommendations to the auDA Board. It’s turned out to be just another sad and sorry chapter since a cabal associated with the right-wing political party of Australian politics took control of auDA in 2016.
Over the last 3 years this cabal has seen the founding CEO booted out, referred allegations of impropriety against former employees and directors to Victorian state police that have predictably come to nothing, overseen around one thousand people from outside Australia joining as members within a few weeks when only a handful of new members ever join every month to ensure they get constitution changes, seen multiple staff and directors bullied and harassed into leaving the organisation including one being given notice while she was on sick leave having cancer treatment and who later died, likely deliberately leaked a confidential report to discredit agitators against the direction of the organisation, been the recipient of an Australian government review that said the organisation was “no longer fit-for-purpose and reform is necessary”, seen Members agitate for 2 Special General Meetings that saw a Chair resign before being booted out, undertaken a dubious Registry tender and spent A$4.247 million in the year to 30 June 2018 on consultants and advisers to further their objectives, up from $1.783 million in the previous financial year.
So it’s hardly surprising a Panel appointed by auDA has come up with a list of policies that defy evidence, are likely unworkable and seeks to alienate the registrants of what is probably a significant part of the .au portfolio.
In their submission responding to the public consultation period auDA is currently undertaking on proposed changes, the ICA summarises their problems with the auDA Panel proposals as follows:
1. auDA should reconsider its approach to domain name investing and should embrace it as a beneficial and important part of the domain name ecosystem;
2. The Panel has found solutions in search of a problem;
3. The Panel has not engaged in evidence-based policy making;
4. Rather than clarifying the policies, the Panel has merely created equally or more unclear policies which are impossible and costly to effectively enforce.
It should be noted that under rules for .au, domain monetisation is allowed, but the registering of domain names for the sole purpose of sale is not. Sales of .au domain names happen every day in Australia through expired domains via dropcatchers and aftermarket sales. auDA themselves sold many generic domain names for a windfall back in 2002.
In their submission, the ICA defends the role of domain investors, or domainers, as a legitimate activity and they “would have expected that the experiences of other countries such as the UK, Canada, United States, and New Zealand would have been examined and considered. In each of these aforementioned countries, domain investing contributes positively to the overall domain name ecosystem and helps ensure the success and viability of the registry.”
The ICA believes “the primary beneficiary of the optimism of domain investors who register in bulk domain names that would otherwise sit unregistered is auDA itself. auDA likely receives millions of dollars in revenues from such registrations and renewals. From a public policy perspective, the question arises as to what harm is caused by the optimism that results in the bulk registration of otherwise unregistered domains when balanced with all the worthwhile initiatives that auDA could fund with the revenues from such registrations and renewals.”
The ICA also wonders what problem auDA is trying to address with their policy recommendations.
“The Panel however stated in the Final Report, that ‘on balance’ it ‘believes that the resale and warehousing prohibition should be retained and strengthened’. From our review of the Final Report however, it is entirely uncertain and undocumented as to what extent there is any genuine ‘problem’ existing in the Australian namespace arising from the current rules as drafted, rather than an assumption by the Panel.”
The submission raises plenty of issues such as what constitutes the business of a domainer, what constitutes a “computer generated website” which the auDA Panel report proposes as a means of determining if the domain name used is intended for domaining. Additionally, the report contends that if a seller lists multiple domain names for sale, then this is an indicator of a domainer. And as the ICA submission notes, there’s no information provided by the auDA report as to how many domain names are listed for sale and sold, nor how many domains are warehoused.
The ICA also notes an “indicator proposed by the Panel for determining the ‘primary purpose’ of the registration is whether more than six domain names were sold or transferred during the previous six months except in relation to a business.” The ICA then asks “what constitutes a business? Who investigates how many domain names were sold or transferred by a registrant? How does the registrant prove that the domain names were transferred for a bona fide reason?”
The ICA also raises concerns about the introduction of second level registrations, whose introduction this writer has long supported. However the proposals suggested by the Panel add complications. There are also proposed changes to domain monetisation. The ICA wonders what the problem is that the auDA Panel is trying to address as there is no problem that has arisen either in practice, or that the Panel has been able to identify. The Panel identifies anecdotal problems, but nothing that is substantiated.
To download, read and make submissions on the Policy Review Panel (PRP) report, see:
The submission by the Internet Commerce Association submission to the auDA PRP, see: